Elwood H. Smith
POLECATS & BEAGLES
JUNE 30, 2006
One of the joys of living in a small town is unearthing local treasures. I've lived in Chicago and New York City where one expects to find an abundance of first-rate creativity. I've also lived in the Michiana Dunes area near Michigan City, Indiana and in Cold Spring and Rhinebeck, two small New York villages. It takes a little longer to find the creative nuggets in small towns--they make less noise and often maintain lower profiles. Early on in Rhinebeck I discovered incredibly talented musicians and with very little arm twisting, I formed a band to play music for the residents at a local nursing home. The original band, "The Polecats", featured Steve Bartles on vocals & bass (he also played bass on my CD, Lucky Dog), lead singer, Russ Bonk, Charles Prosser vocals & drums and Tim Hoolihan, vocals & rhythm guitar with me on lead guitar and mandolin--no vocals, thank the gods.
It is possible I started the band for the sole purpose of creating a band name and logo. I drew a skunk (sometimes referred to as a polecat in rural America) with a banjo (easier to draw than a guitar, we had no banjo in the band) and lettered the name of the band with our motto tucked below: "We Stink". Some nights we did, but mostly we were pretty damned good. Those members of our captive audience still awake, were thrilled as we tuned our instruments and waited for the custodian to find an extension cord for Steve's bass amp. They were ecstatic when we finally began pumping out old Hank Williams & Carter Family tunes, actually applauding from time to time when prompted by the helpful staff. Seriously, many residents looked forward to the Polecat's monthly arrival and I'd like to regroup the Polecats one day when my schedule allows & return to our elder hostile fans.
Rhinebeck Beagle Cover
But I digress. I'm here today to talk about a new discovery. The Rhinebeck Beagle. Furless, fearless and dog-eared, the Rhinebeck Beagle is an occasional 8 1/2 by 11 inch, 4-page newsletter (still only ONE DOLLAR) created by Pablo Rapido, a furry, fearless, dog-eared Rhinebeck resident who's real name is Paul Swift. It took me several issues to finally grasp the humor and logic of the pseudonym. Not the first time logic has eluded me.
Paul published the first Beagle in 2004 and immediately won the First Annual Jason Blair-Jack Kelley Award for Fraudulent Journalism. Really, a real award. It's named after the infamous New York Times/USA Today reporters who were both fired for breaches of journalistic ethics, including fabricated quotes and plagiarism. The judges cited The Beagle "for compelling journalism unencumbered by the facts." Jury chairman Larry Flynt of Penthouse said, "Most newspapers and magazines are still stuck in the mud of "The truth shall set thee free.' Obviously, Paul is no slouch when it comes to lying through his ink-stained teeth.
The Beagle is fiction, of course, but the articles are often based on actual events that have unfolded or are unfolding in Rhinebeck and Pablo has no qualms about using local resident's names. Those in the know anxiously await the next issue and we often wait many months. Some readers probably cringe when their names appear. They are often portrayed as scoundrels or wastrels and sometimes the cringer is, in fact, a scoundrel or wastrel. Usually it's just Paul having some fun with a local bartender or politician. He is a good man to avoid if you value your privacy or integrity.
But I didn't avoid him. We have these damnable faux carillon bells bellowing around here in Rhinebeck and they drive me crazy. Two churches have purchased tapes or DVDs of prerecorded carillon music and the pastors feel a need to broadcast very loudly from their steeples, several times daily, insipid renderings of hymns & God knows what else--including the "Ode to Joy" from Beethoven's mighty 9th. Lo and behold, an issue ago, the Rhinebeck Beagle railed against Jesus Christ's Elevator Music, prompting me to track down the mysterious and fellow curmudgeon, Pablo Rapido.
Paul Swift and I met in late February, 2006, at The Beekman Arms, his favorite dining establishment and watering hole. It is America's oldest, continuously running Inn. The food is excellent and the ambience is woody and dark, perfect for drinking too many pints of ale. I almost never drink at lunch, but what could I do? Paul was already at the bar slurping martinis when I arrived and, well, when in the Historic Beekman Arms Colonial Tap Room, do as the Beekman Arms Colonials do. Drink copiously. And so we did.
Anyhow, to make a short story long as I'm wont to do, I'm pasting below the lead story (almost entirely fictional but for names and places) from the Summer issue of The Rhinebeck Beagle, with Pablo having some fun with the Hudson Valley's ongoing historic Dutch roots fanfare. It also marks the first Beagle to feature spot illustrations by the brilliant local artist, E. Herbert Smith. Now there's a well disguised pseudonym!
If you are ever in the area, give Pablo a call. Offer to buy him a drink at the Colonial Tap Room and I'm sure he'll be delighted to share a little local gossip and drink you under the table. Something he can do with one Beekman Arm tied behind his back!
©Elwood H. Smith
GEORGE BANTA TO TAP RHINEBECK'S DUTCH ROOTS WITH RE-CREATION OF AMSTERDAM AT THE BEEKMAN ARMS
Store-window prostitutes, tulips, village canals are on the Empire Builder’s list
The Beagle is looking forward to sniffing around the Rhinebeck Planning and Zoning Board meetings on this one.
Over the past few years, George Banta has bought up the Beekman Arms Inn, the Delamater House and Conference Center, the Village Inn, and various other Village buildings, as if he were General Sherman marching through a goose.
Mr. Banta has now announced that he’s taking Rhinebeck back to its 17th-century Dutch roots.
“I’ve had meetings with The Holland Society, the organization devoted to friendly relations between Americans with Dutch ancestry and the Low Lifes, er, the Low Countries. They like my idea,” Banta told The Beagle.
“Holland is still reeling from the tulip dot-bomb crash of 1737, so they’ll try anything.
“We are going to re-create Amsterdam’s famed red-light district in the street-level windows and doors of my new Townsend House on West Market Street. We have four rooms there, street level. Welcome!
“The women are fully compliant with all pertinent health laws and regulations, and I’m even giving them full medical and dental coverage (although most of them don’t have that many teeth).”
Is this legal?
Asked about the legality of prostitution in Rhinebeck, Banta replied that he skirted the issue (so to speak) by procuring an Economic Empire Zone grant.
“I convinced the Empire Zone officials that many rural and small-town young women, many of them single mothers, were finding it difficult to make ends meet.
“As you know, many of these Empire Zones are exempt from most local and state laws and zoning regulations and even tax liabilities,” Banta said.
Like IBM in East Fishkill?
“Plus, I envisage getting support from the New York State Tourism Board and the small-business grants division of the Department of Homeland Security—to relocate some City prostitutes affected by 9/11.”
Holland to bloom in Rhinebeck
Burghermeister Banta also plans to foliate downtown Rhinebeck with fertile banks of tulips, certainly a plentiful spread on his Market Street sidewalk, under the ladies’ commercial windows.
“We’ll plant still more thousands of red and yellow tulips on the Delamater campus, too,” George said.
“But my favorite part of the Amsterdam Project, as I call it, is the canal system. As you know, West Market Street was originally just that, a street wide enough to host the Saturday open-air markets.
“Well, we’re going to use that space to create a canal, like those in Amsterdam. A canal complete with locks in order to navigate the hill up to the Starr Library. A canal ride in the autumn rain should be very romantic, like in Amsterdam.”
Anne Frank House
“Finally,” George said, “We’re going to build a replica of Anne Frank’s Amsterdam house. It should off-set the cultural backlash we’ll probably get from the ladies in the windows.
“We will have live actors re-enact scenes from Anne’s famous diary—young, local Jewish girls dressed like Anne, and big, burly German farmers as the Gestapo. It should be great fun!” George said.
© 2006 The Cold Nose Press
Pablo Rapido, Editor